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The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography Paperback – Aug 29 2000

4.8 out of 5 stars 223 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (Aug. 29 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495325
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 223 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

People love secrets. Ever since the first word was written, humans have sent coded messages to each other. In The Code Book, Simon Singh, author of the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, offers a peek into the world of cryptography and codes, from ancient texts through computer encryption. Singh's compelling history is woven through with stories of how codes and ciphers have played a vital role in warfare, politics, and royal intrigue. The major theme of The Code Book is what Singh calls "the ongoing evolutionary battle between codemakers and codebreakers," never more clear than in the chapters devoted to World War II. Cryptography came of age during that conflict, as secret communications became critical to both sides' success.

Confronted with the prospect of defeat, the Allied cryptanalysts had worked night and day to penetrate German ciphers. It would appear that fear was the main driving force, and that adversity is one of the foundations of successful codebreaking.

In the information age, the fear that drives cryptographic improvements is both capitalistic and libertarian--corporations need encryption to ensure that their secrets don't fall into the hands of competitors and regulators, and ordinary people need encryption to keep their everyday communications private in a free society. Similarly, the battles for greater decryption power come from said competitors and governments wary of insurrection.

The Code Book is an excellent primer for those wishing to understand how the human need for privacy has manifested itself through cryptography. Singh's accessible style and clear explanations of complex algorithms cut through the arcane mathematical details without oversimplifying. --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

In an enthralling tour de force of popular explication, Singh, author of the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, explores the impact of cryptographyAthe creation and cracking of coded messagesAon history and society. Some of his examples are familiar, notably the Allies' decryption of the Nazis' Enigma machine during WWII; less well-known is the crucial role of Queen Elizabeth's code breakers in deciphering Mary, Queen of Scots' incriminating missives to her fellow conspirators plotting to assassinate Elizabeth, which led to Mary's beheading in 1587. Singh celebrates a group of unsung heroes of WWII, the Navajo "code talkers," Native American Marine radio operators who, using a coded version of their native language, played a vital role in defeating the Japanese in the Pacific. He also elucidates the intimate links between codes or ciphers and the development of the telegraph, radio, computers and the Internet. As he ranges from Julius Caesar's secret military writing to coded diplomatic messages in feuding Renaissance Italy city-states, from the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone to the ingenuity of modern security experts battling cyber-criminals and cyber-terrorists, Singh clarifies the techniques and tricks of code makers and code breakers alike. He lightens the sometimes technical load with photos, political cartoons, charts, code grids and reproductions of historic documents. He closes with a fascinating look at cryptanalysts' planned and futuristic tools, including the "one-time pad," a seemingly unbreakable form of encryption. In Singh's expert hands, cryptography decodes as an awe-inspiring and mind-expanding story of scientific breakthrough and high drama. Agent, Patrick Walsh. (Oct.) FYI: The book includes a "Cipher Challenge," offering a $15,000 reward to the first person to crack that code.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Singh writes in a very accessible style that even the novice mathlete can understand. The code challenge, even though it has been solved, is still really fun to decipher and learn from. Excellent book!
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Format: Paperback
I tried reading this book five years ago when I bought it, giving up within the first 50 pages where the author started explaining how to decrypt a ciphertext. It bored me then. I’m glad I stuck through that minor hump this time around; this is an engrossing, fascinating book about cryptography’s role in history.
Singh begins the history with Mary Queen of Scots and how she used a cipher to encrypt letters to her cohorts to plan the assasination of the Queen of England. Besides learning a lot of history, Singh describes the ciphers used in an easy to follow manner, using lots of useful examples.
For those with a computer science background, the book gets really interesting about two-thirds of the way in, when computers come into play for breaking codes developed during World War II. The history of DES, RSA and PGP are compelling, especially when you already know about those standards but didn’t know the history of them; and the author describes how all are implemented in layman terms; it is easy to follow if you know little mathematics, although it will make the programmer in you want to start coding the algorithms he describes.
The author has published a less technical version of the book: The Code Book for Young People: How to Make It, Break It, Hack It, Crack It.
I picked up this book because I read the author’s previous book, Fermat’s Enigma, which is a lot more technical than The Code Book, but it’s an interesting tale nevertheless; non-technical readers can skip the meaningless stuff. That book is about how Fermat’s Last Theorem was solved after almost 400 years.
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Format: Paperback
This book is truly an achievement! SimonSingh takes up a seemingly esoteric, difficult, mysterious, exhaustive subject of Cryptography (or in simple terms Coding and decoding) and backed up by exhaustive research , he has written an engrossing book; The 400page read is a fascinating journey for the reader. The journey spans a broad range and time period. The hallmark of this book apart from the wealth of information it has, is the facile style of writing of SimonSingh which doesn't smother the lay reader with verbiage or technicalities; The structure of chapters is period wise, starting with the basic codes used during the middle ages, with the advancement of monoalphabetic ciphers and then polyalphabetic ciphers (including the vignere ciphers); then the automation of ciphers which happened during WWII with the famous Enigma machine; Then comes the intresting phase of cat and mouse game between the cryptographers and cryptoanalysts, which has always happened, but took a intense phase during the WWII, primarily between the camp at BletchleyPark,London (which housed a motley crowd ranging from Mathematicians to Linguists, all in a hectic pursuit to break the German code) and the Germans. The simple explanation behind the logic of Enigma is a demonstration of SimonS's ability to express the technical in the simplest of terms.
I found the description and concept of DES , the breakthrough of asymmetric ciphers , the concept of public key and Private keys, digital signatures especially illuminating.
The background leading to the development of PGP by Zimmerman and its features is an highlight and very topical.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book explains the history of cryptography clearly. It also explains how ciphers work and the difference between codes and ciphers. I have developed an interest in cryptography after the surveillance scandal,last year. This book made me even more interested in cryptography and now I have been looking for different books on cryptography. This book really opened my eyes about this subject and I hope I can contribute to the field. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the last chapter on quantum computers and quantum cryptography. Those fields are very interesting but my current capabilities limit my understanding making the reading of the chapter for me tedious. I liked appendices that delve deeper into certain forms of cryptography. I also like the further readings section and the cryptography puzzles, they are very helpful. I would recommend this book to anyone who want to know about cryptography and its impact on today's society(even though the book was written 15 years ago).
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Format: Paperback
Simon Singh has written an outstanding introduction into cryptology (the science of codes, ciphers and decoding and decyphering). This is a book aimed at the layperson who has some interest in mathematics and linguistics. He mixes the science behind codes and cyphers with a stronhg dose of history, which puts the amazing achievements in this science in the context of changing human history.
The history in the book ranges from Roman codes through the middle ages and finally arriving to the 2nd world war and the Enigma machine. Not only is the history told in great detail, but also with some attention the reader understands exactly the process that was taken to arrive at the cyphers and their breaking. An addition portion of history told is that of the decyphering of hieroglyphics and Linear B, ancient forms of writing on which some of the tools of cryptology (especially mathematics and linguistics) were used.
Simon Singh uses a formula similar to the one he uses in Fermat's Enigma (another outstanding book for amateur mathematicians): he tells a story on a subject that is tremendously complex, but makes it simple enough so that someone who is dedicated to understanding it can at least grasp the main concepts.
This is a great book for amateur mathematicians, statisticians and linguists. It is also a great portion of our history that is seldom heard of. I highly recommend it as one of the best page turners I have read in a while.
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